Here is the sumptuous first image of the Universe taken by the James Webb telescope

Here is the sumptuous first image of the Universe taken by the James Webb telescope

the essential
The James Webb Telescope has unveiled its first color photo of the Universe. It shows galaxies formed more than 13 billion years ago. New images will be released on Tuesday.

Here is finally this long-awaited photo! The James Webb Telescope unveiled, on Monday July 11, 2022, a magnificent all-color shot of the galaxies formed after the Big Bang, more than 13 billion years ago. This photo is “the deepest and clearest infrared image ever taken of the distant Universe so far”, explains NASA. The James Webb Space Telescope, the most powerful ever, was launched six months ago.

The light, after traveling such a long way, stretched from the visible spectrum to the infrared, a wavelength invisible to human eyes, but not to those of James Webb. For this shot illustrating the distant times of the cosmos, the telescope aimed at the galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 which, acting as a magnifying glass, also revealed very distant cosmic objects behind it — an effect called gravitational lensing.

It’s here – the deepest, sharpest infrared view of the universe yet: Webb’s first deep field.

Previewed by @POTUS on July 11, it shows galaxies once invisible to us. The complete set of @NASAWebbThe first color images and data will be revealed on July 12: https://t.co/63zxpNDi4I pic.twitter.com/zAr7YoFZ8C

-NASA (@NASA) July 11, 2022

thousands of galaxies

The image, which is teeming with detail, was taken over an observation time of 12.5 hours. It thus shows thousands of galaxies, at the heart of which certain structures “have never been seen before”, according to NASA.

The research work is therefore just beginning. “Researchers will soon begin to learn more about the masses, ages, histories and compositions” of these galaxies, specifies the space agency. One of James Webb’s main missions is to explore the early ages of the Universe. In astronomy, seeing far is equivalent to going back in time, the observed light having traveled for billions of years before reaching us.

“A new era has begun for astronomy,” comments Jonathan Lunine, an astronomer at Cornell University, calling the image “fantastic”. “Although it is by no means the farthest Webb can see, (…) it shows the power of this remarkable telescope: enormous sensitivity, a wide range of wavelengths, and vivid clarity of ‘picture,’ he added.

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“The James Webb Space Telescope opens a new window on the Universe”

New images this Tuesday

Although the names of James Webb’s first five cosmic targets were announced last week, the images had so far been jealously guarded in order to create suspense. The following images of this real surprise bag will be revealed during a NASA online event this Tuesday morning. They must both impress the general public with their beauty, but also demonstrate to astronomers around the world all the power of the four scientific instruments on board.

Experts will be able to begin to interpret data collected using dedicated software, giving the starting signal for a great scientific adventure. Two photos of nebulae – very photogenic and gigantic clouds of gas and dust where stars are formed – are on the program for Tuesday: the Carina Nebula, and that of the Austral Ring. Another target, Stephan’s Quintet, a group of galaxies interacting with each other.

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James Webb Space Telescope: “I would like to be blown away”, explains Olivier Berné, astrophysicist from Toulouse

A gas giant planet

The first spectroscopy from the James Webb Telescope is also due to be made public on Tuesday. This is not an image per se, but a technique used to determine the chemical composition of a distant object. In this case, WASP-96 b, a giant planet composed mainly of gas and located outside our solar system.

Exoplanets (planets orbiting a star other than our Sun) are one of James Webb’s main areas of research. About 5000 have been discovered since 1995, but they remain very mysterious. The goal is to study their atmosphere to determine if some could turn out to be worlds conducive to the development of life.

Composite image from the Hubble Telescope, taken between February 1 and 2, 2010, shows a pinnacle in the stellar nursery of the Carina Nebula.
NASA/ESA photo

Thanks to his observations in the near and mid-infrared, James Webb will be able to see through impenetrable dust clouds for his predecessor, the mythical Hubble Space Telescope. Launched in 1990 and still in operation, it has a small infrared capacity but operates mainly in visible light and ultraviolet. Other major differences between the two telescopes: James Webb’s main mirror is almost three times larger than Hubble’s and it evolves much further: 1.5 million kilometers from Earth, against 600 km for Hubble.

James Webb was launched at Christmas 2021 from French Guiana by the Ariane 5 rocket. Resulting from a huge international collaboration, and in the works since the 1990s, this engineering gem posted 1.5 million kilometers from Earth cost about $10 billion.

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